Is Depression Keeping You From Making a Clutter-Free New Year’s Resolution?

Dr. Elspeth Bell Writes on Clutter and Depression
Many of the symptoms associated with depression are entwined with an individual’s clutter. Listed below are some symptoms of depression and the clutter-related thoughts that can accompany them.

  • Persistent sad or “empty” feelings. It is hard to motivate yourself to work on clutter when you’re overwhelmed by sadness. Efforts can feel pointless. When you start to lose track of why you’re doing things write yourself a reminder. What are the most important things in your life? Why do you choose to do things? It can be hard to fight the emptiness-it’s a very powerful feeling. Remember: Just because I feel something doesn’t make it real. I may feel sad or empty right now, but that doesn’t mean that my life is really empty.
  • Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism. “I’ll never get anywhere with this stuff.” Why bother tidying up when it feels like it isn’t going to make a difference? When you’re lost in a negative mindset, everything seems to reinforce that outlook. Any piece of positivity gets lost in the gray cloud of negativity. Is it possible to do one positive thing? Every journey starts with one step. I may not be able to see the end of the
  • journey right now, but I can make one choice that will move me in that direction.
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness. “I’m a horrible person for letting this space get so cluttered.” When you’re depressed it feels like everything is your fault and things will never change.
  • Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable. “I don’t look forward to using this space for its intended purpose, so why bother trying to get it tidied up?”
  • Fatigue and decreased energy. When you’re so easily tired, it’s much more tempting to stay on the couch or go to bed instead of dealing with the clutter.
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions. How can you make decisions about what to do with your things when you can’t focus on the task at hand? Maybe you can’t remember what you did before or where you put something? This contributes to a sense of hopelessness-“I’m not getting anywhere.” It also contributes to a sense of worthlessness-“I can’t even remember where I put that thing.”
  • Aches or pains, headaches, and digestive problems. Sorting, organizing, and decluttering are already challenging. Add in physical pain and it becomes nearly impossible. Physical and emotional states are very closely intertwined. When you are experiencing one form of pain you’re more susceptible to experiencing another. Take care of yourself physically and emotionally-eat well, get enough sleep, stay hydrated, and exercise. All those things can easily get pushed aside when you’re sad, stressed, and overwhelmed.

– Elspeth Bell, Ph.D.
(Our thanks to Dr. Elspbeth Bell for writing this timely article. Dr. Bell’s office is located in Columbia, Maryland. You can reach her at 410-480-8052 or at